Blogging catch up

Not been blogging for a wee while due to the Christmas break, so I thought I’d do a quick catch up on some issues I haven’t commented on.

Weather cuts
You may have noticed that the weather is a little stormy at the moment, as we’ve seen a succession of storms hitting the UK. Indeed I had to fly back to the UK through one of them and it was something of an “Indiana Jones” flight. Oddly enough the nipper a few rows up stopped crying and seemed to enjoy all the bumping and jumping around as the plane landed, ignorance is bliss!

Anyway, you would think the government would be looking at bolstering spending to ensure less disruption next time the winter weather turns nasty. Actually the Tories are looking to make significant cutbacks into the budget of the environment agency and “hundreds” of those who gave up their Christmas to see the country through the crisis will be getting a pink slip as they’re new year’s gift.

That said, its long been known that the Tory party was a den for loony climate change deniers, so one wonders if this is them hoping that by shooting the messenger, the message won’t arrive. Presumably their “big society” will magically clear the roads of fallen trees and rescue people from rising flood waters.

Did anyone say climate change?
Of course whenever weather events like this occur, many turn to the issue of climate change as a possible explanation. While I would be the first to note the difference between “weather” and “climate” and the unreliability of linking any event between the two. Certainly a long term prediction of climatologists was that climate change would lead to the UK’s weather becoming more stormy and wetter.

This is inevitable, as warmer water’s further south in the Atlantic is the engine that drives most storms, leading to increased rainfall in our part of the world. Or indeed rather ironically, more snow in winter (if that rain happens to arrive in the UK the same time as a cold snap from the east).

Indeed as I’m either travelling between the UK and Ireland at this time of year or trying to climb mountains. I have to say that my experience is that stormy weather this time of year isn’t that unusual. What’s different this year is the storms seem to be that much worse than normal and while typically its my experience that most miss the UK and either head off into the North sea or scrape across Scotland (meaning the media never report it) every single one this year seems to have gone bang across the middle of the country. Although this is hardly a scientific anaylsis I’ll admit.

However, as pointed out in the Spectator magazine (of all places) we can’t just pass the buck and blame climate change for this one, even if it is just part of a long term trend. Cuts, both those already made and planned (as mentioned) have to be blamed for the disruption. After all scientists have been warning of such weather events for some time and it’s not as if this is the first time we’ve had flooding in the country.

The whole point of governments the Tories don’t get is that they are supposed to be there and keep the lights on as it were, even if this means spending money which it appears to be wasteful (by for example having all these gritters ready to go, even if we get a run of winters without much snow).

In the corporate world, if a company cuts back its budgets too much to the point where it gets overwhelmed by a sudden crisis and goes bankrupt, this is part of the normal business cycle. But when the instruments of state fall apart (e.g. the roads/rails get blocked, the power goes off, the mail doesn’t arrive, hospitals shut, etc.) the whole country stops and we can’t very well shut the UK down and reopen the country under a different name!

And if the climate scientists are even half right then what we’re now seeing could be the new normal in a few decades.

Snow trolling
Speaking of weather, tis the season for that favourite right wing pastime – snow trolling. This is where climate deniers come out with statements along the lines of “its snowing outside, thus global warming mustn’t be happening”. Or “there’s ice in the Antarctica, thus global warming can’t be happening”.

The following post from climatecrocks addresses these points. But in short, as noted, there is a difference between “weather” and “climate”. And cold weather in the Northern hemisphere is not by any means unusual this time of year, nor is ice in Antarctica at any time of the year.

There are charts and data available which tracks global temperatures, and the thickness of ice both in the Arctic and Antarctic and all show the thickness of ice sheets, particularly those onshore in the Antarctic (crucial as melting of these will lead to sea level rise) are thinning as well as recent rises in global temperatures (and no warming didn’t “stop” in 1997). Notably another record high in Australia.

In short all that deniers succeed in demonstrating is their own ignorance of the subject, their inability to do something as simple as draw and correctly interpret a graph and why we’re best left leaving this matter to the experts….well at least until Cameron sacks um all!

Nick Griffin bankrupt
It would seem that “nasty” Nick Griffin of the BNP has recently declared bankruptcy. While he and his mob of thugs party are trying to keep a brave face on it, it would seem that this bankruptcy is in part due to a variety of issues, ranging from financial mismanagement and the cost of litigation related to the party’s “white’s only” policy.

Of course one could argue that the BNP has been morally bankrupt for quite some time!

Previously, an MP (or MEP) who fell into bankruptcy was automatically bared from standing for office (the logic being that such an individual had clearly demonstrated he couldn’t be trusted with public funds and of course the possibly his financial position might make him susceptible to bribery). However those rules were changed recently, so in theory he could stand for election again.

But certainly it does push the BS barrier the likes of him suckling off a fat EU salary (Nigel Farrage too) while complaining about the EU and immigrants when it’s the latter two who pay his salary! And naturally this bankruptcy crisis within the BNP doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in their ability to handle money properly.

Thatcher’s Legacy
Speaking of right wing nut cases, we have revelations about what was really going on under Thatcher’s government.

One of the thorny issues regarding the miners strike has always been to what extend did her government plan to close down pits. When Scargill claimed that the Thatcher government planned to closed down nearly all of the pits, even in areas that currently seemed to be safe, many thought he’d gone a bit potty and was merely using the risk to a small number of uneconomic pits as an excuse to stir up trouble. Thus even within the mining unions, he did not enjoy universal support.

Of course hindsight would suggest (indeed the bulk of UK mines did close down under Thatcher and Major governments) that he wasn’t far wrong. But we now have confirmation that indeed, yes much of what Scargill said at the time was accurate, Thatcher did plan to close far more pits than they claimed at the time. Had this been known back at the start of the strike, it would likely have received much greater support, both within the coal mining unions as well as others unions and there’s a good chance it would have succeeded in its goals, quite possibly bringing down Thatcher’s government, much like the previous strike in 1974 brought down the Heath government.

Evidence has also emerged that Thatcher planned to deploy the army against miners and that the police may have falsified evidence against the miners.

Also we have revelations regarding Northern Ireland. Generally it is the view in Ireland that a major obstacle to peace was Thatcher, largely due to her ideological commitment to the unionists (or indeed her outright stubbornness). Thus, the peace process was essentially put on hold until John Major took over. Even though, quite ironically, he depended on Unionists votes to maintain the Tory majority

Thatcher by contrast provoked an escalating tit-for-tat war with the Republicans, with her not giving in to the hunger strikers, which provoked retaliation in the form of attacks on the UK mainland, including an attempt to assassinate her by the IRA (which to be fair was hardly likely to endear her towards a peaceful solution). Indeed, its likely she would have gone a lot further (she once talked about emulating Cromwell’s actions) had she not been restrained by the mechanisms of governments.

Blatter problems
The corrupt egomaniac head of world football, is upset with the amount of diving going on in football. Certainly sometimes many a match reminds me of a ballet performance with many “swanlake dives” being performed, the guy rolls around on the ground and is practically being given the last rites, yet as soon as he’s carried to the edge of the pitch or the person who put in a tackle (miles away from him) is booked, he’s back to life in manner of recovery unseen since Jesus did his party trick many Easter’s ago.

Anyway the proposal is to include some sort of time penalty. That if a player goes off injured he has to stay off until a certain period of time has passed. As its hoped this will discourage diving.

I’ve an alternative proposal – the sugarplum fairy award. This will be a prize for the best diver of the league. The “winner” of this award will be required to play the following season dressed in a ballerina costume complete with a pink dress and slippers and give an acrobatic twirl at the request of away fans. That’ll learn’em! Here’s a couple of nominee’s for the first award.

But seriously, here’s a proposal, why not go after the root cause? The reason why there is diving is that with so much money riding on the outcome of a football match, its all too tempting for players to want to cheat. So why not put a wage cap on the premier league players.

The Italian league shows where things are heading. It started off with diving and harmless theatrics, and now a few years later corruption has reached such epidemic levels that some are talking about suspending the Italian league for a few years.

Video killed the TV star
Charley Brooker‘s look at the history of video games was an interesting watch over Christmas. One theme that was all to present was the issue of violence within video games. Certainly, I would question whether it’s gone beyond the limits of taste in some cases (never was a fan of Carmgeddon or GTA).

However these modern day Marry Whitehouse types take the biscuit. Such as the irony of the NRA trying to link violent video games with spree shootings. After all in the Korea or Japan video games are practically the national sport, yet they don’t have a trend of spree shootings. One would be forgiven for asking if the real reason has something to do with the easy availability of guns.

The Jaffa School of Marksmenship

I’ve been catching the odd episode of Stargate SG-1 on pick TV the last few months and I think I would rate the “Jaffa” (that’s the minions of the Goa’uld, the main “bad guys” of the series) as the worse and least credible of Sci-fi “cannon fodder” units.

I mean they have all the survival instincts of the “red shirts” of Star Trek (you know how Spock, Kirk, Bones and some guy in a red shirt called Ensign Ricky would beam down do planet and 5 seconds later ensign Ricky’s is “he’s dead Jim“). And the Jaffa have aim that is worse even that the Stormtroopers of Star Wars. It seems that below the “stormtrooper school of marksmanship” there is a grade called “Jaffa school of stupidity“.

Then again, I reckon the reason the Empire lost in Return of the Jedi was because the Emperor was a Tory. Think about it, he spends a vast fortune of many hundreds of Quadrillions on a death star but then goes all corner cutting, leaving out important things, such as an armored grille over exhaust ports, or hand railings around the edge of bottomless pits (its a elf’n’safety nightmare that death star!). He also clearly cut back on proper training and vital equipment for his gunners (there’s one scene in the original version of star wars where you can see a gunner holding his hands over his ears, clearly Palpatine was too penny pinching to buy him a pair of ear defenders) and the number of fighters to protect the death star was clearly cut back significantly (just 3 it would seem!)…kind of like the UK government’s current spending plans regarding the future carriers which apparently won’t have any aircraft operating off them and we’ll have to borrow the carriers off the French three weeks in advance if we want to have a war ;D.

But I digress, how bad are the Jaffa? Well, in one episode a while ago a unit of them took off in pursuit of the SG team. This led them to a point where they walked across a large open field, bold as brass (fully aware that they were in pursuit of an armed enemy who could be lying in wait in the bushes and high ground) and when inevitably the shooting started they just stood there making the odd random off target shot back while they were easily picked off one by one :roll:.

I mean they could have A} not walking into an obvious ambush but gone around or used covering fire to flank the SG team B} fallen to the ground and returned fire from the prone position C} called in air support or heavy fire support….then again the fire support of Jaffa “death gliders” is pretty piss poor, they tend to perform worse (again randomly shooting the ground nowhere near the enemy), despite superior tech than a WW2 fighter. And despite their superior Goa’uld technology, they haven’t apparently used it to develop something like a tank or an APC or heavy support weapons (there are good tactical reasons why armies in the real world use these things, just ask any poor Squadie forced to drive around in an unarmored land rover through mine laden Afghanistan).

In other scenario’s the SG-1 team have easily infiltrated goa’uld ships/bases without any complications (pretty much knocked on the door and walked in!). I mean you would think they would have any entrances heavily guarded and monitored 24/7 by CCTV. You would also expect the most basic security measures, such as doors with controlled access on them (and alarms that go off when people fiddle with the locks), more CCTV watching all corridors, motion sensors, computers that require a login password to access, regular security patrols and alarms that go off when loud noises (such as gunfire) are detected or when a patrol doesn’t check in within a certain period of time. I mean my uni has better security than a Goa’uld mother-ship!

Okay, I’m taking this a bit too seriously, but the serious point I’m making, is that about when writing stories making sure you’re villains or heroes are credible. The “evil genius school of villainy” sort of wears thin after awhile, as most people recognise that it is fairly unlikely that any evil genius smart enough to build a mega death ray, would capture the hero, then rather than executing him on the spot, instead give him a ten minute powerpoint presentation of his plans, then leave the hero in a situation where he can easily escape from with plenty of time to thwart said plans :no:.

Similarly few real heroes match up to Raglan’s “the hero tradition (a system for rating heroes from folklore out of 22 points, father was a king, origins or birth unusual, fights an epic battle, etc, Oedipus gets all 22, Hercules 17, Robin hood 13 & Jesus 19 88|!). Just read the accounts of Victoria cross winners over the years.

By contrast in “proper” fiction, such as the “Game of Thrones” series (and the books its based on) or a number of the characters in Ian Banks novels (both the sci-fi and fiction), the line between “villain” and “flawed hero” is extremely blurred. And as a result its difficult sometimes to tell who is the hero and who is the villain, which makes such stories much more interesting, believable and engaging.

Katie Holmes tunnels out

It would seem that young Katey Holmes has finally succeeded in tunnelling out of the Scientology’s OSA (they’re the cult’s secret police) prison and sprinted into town. I was always wondering how long it would take a lady from a strict catholic upbringing to crack and make a break for it.

Then again, in Scientology terms what she did was perform a “disconnect” from Tom Cruise….Although in the process she’s likely become a “suppressive person” or at the very least a PTS (Potential Trouble Source), consequently the danger was the church would consider her thus “fair game” as they’ve done to previous critics of their cult (look at how John Sweeney of the beeb fared). Indeed John Sweeney has an article out here about what Katey Holmes can expect.

Now while I’m not usually the sort to go for Hollywood gossip it seems that she planned her runaway with a fair degree of precision (apparently the first Tom Cruise knew about it was when her divorce lawyer handed him the notice). She seems to have got a fairly good and quick settlement, keeping the kid, but that’s hardly surprising. I mean does Tom Cruise want her testifying about all the weird stuff he and his Thetan buddies get up to behind closed doors? I doubt it!

There’s a good collection of articles on Scientology in this website here.

Hans and silent Darth strikes back

Those with a “real life” who don’t really care who Luke Skywalker’s old man is might want to skip this article. But there has been an interesting summary on the Beeb arts page regarding the fight between Star Wars fans and George “tinker’in” Lucas.

When the digitally re-mastered version was released, some fans just groaned a little, but they were outraged by it when they realised that GL had altered the critical confrontation when Hans Solo shot Greedo (the funny looking alien bounty hunter he shoots in the Cantina). The new version has Greeto shooting first. GL’s position is that he was trying to emphasis that Hans had no choice but to shoot Greedo. Fans say that he’s lay’s it on way too thick and is tinkering with a movie classic. The cultural equivlent of drawing a smily face on the Scream.

Anyway, it now seems he’’s at it again. A key scene in which Darth previously remained silent, now the Blue-Ray disk version has Darth Vader screaming like a sissy girl. Naturally the fans are appalled at this turn of events.

My take? Well I know what I saw when I saw the film the first time and that’s what counts. And I’’ve a copy of both the original and re-mastered at home so GL can ruin the film to his heart’s content, I’’ll just not be buying a copy of that Blue-Ray disk. What I’m not going to do is put on a tinfoil hat.

What I will say is that there’s now a huge amount of “fan fiction” out there and thus fandom has moved well beyond that of the original film.

Update!
Also I would note that there is nothing strange about an artish returning to a work and producing several versions of it. There are for example multiple versions of “the Scream” and Van Gogh’s “sunflowers“. What is uncalled for, is George Lucas attempt to rewrite history and suppress the previous versions of his work. I mean he could make a ton of money if he was smart selling the alternative versions of the SW Hexalogy to fans and Blue-ray provides the perfect means for him to do it. Although I do understand his desire to suppress all knowledge of the “star wars holiday special” :oops:. If you’ve ever had the misfortune to see it you’ll understand where he’s coming from. I include a link to it here, but with a health warning, it really is very, very bad, and I mean bad enough to make people ill, so don’t blame me (or GL) if you’re foolish enough to click on the link above.

Barney time

Another recent story, they found a sample of dinosaur feathers preserved in amber in Canada. Dinosaur feathers? Yes it seems that some dinosaurs were actually covered in feathers, not the same as the feathers used by birds, but an earlier evolution of feathers, probably intended for warmth than flight.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14933298

The end result was that far from the “terrible lizards” we know some dinosaurs would have been big fluffy beasts…something like Barney the dinosaur! So the Jurassic era was more terrifying than we thought. Rather than T-Rex running around chasing down Triceratops, it was a case of Barney types going around singing “I love you, you love me..” I wonder if Barney Zombies existed back then also?

Seriously tho, this is interesting due to its implications for evolution. It clearly shows how things don’t (as the creationists put it) pop out of nowhere. The feather evolved from a structure with a very different use by a creature related to modern birds but in many respects very different…tho then again if you’ve ever looked a chicken in the eye you suspect he’s thinking a few millions years ago and you’d have been dead meat buddy!….well either that or just remember that I love you!